2007-11-14: The Safe Places

Starring:

Kory_icon.gif Cam_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif Lee_icon.gif

Guest Starring:

Tito

Summary: Kory and Niki meet thanks to the young boy they have in common.

Date It Happened: November 14th, 2007

The Safe Places


The Secret Lair

East Village, New York City

It's late in the week sometime, a few hours after school's out and probably near closing when Cam leads Niki in. The boy's moving a little stiffly, not from his arm this time apparently but in general. He seems his normal cheerful self, though, as he glances around for Kory.

Niki appears shortly after Cam, much less out of her element than the twelve-year-old boy — but well-acquainted with comic book stores, at least, because of her own son who's almost the same age. The blonde steps in with the door closing shut behind her, instantly glancing around to see who's about. In a dark jeans that disappear into similarly coloured boots, and a dark blue sweater with an ambiguous graphic pattern up one side, she's dressed casually. She soon comes up behind Cam, almost protective.

Tito's got the counter, but he looks up and smiles as Cam walks in. "Heya, kid. How goes?" The question is followed by a polite, "Ma'am," to Niki. He knows the kid usually comes in alone, so is surprised to see the adult with him. "Help you guys find anything?"

Cam smiles to Tito, waving as he steps further in, "Yeah, kinda… Kory around?" Then he adds, "This is Niki." No explanation of who Niki is, but Tito's probably heard him mention her by now anyway.

"Hi," Niki offers the man behind the desk a congenial smile - otherwise, she just waits behind Cam, looking around now and then as if anticipating where this Kory woman might appear from.

"She's in back," Tito replies, turning to walk the length of the counter. He comes up on that EMPLOYEES ONLY door and gives it a couple knocks. "Hey, Kory. It's Cam lookin' for ya."

The door opens and a rather tired and haggard-looking Kory emerges. "Hm? Oh, hey, Cam." She smiles tiredly at him, and then blinks. Cam's not alone! He has a blonde lady with him! A familiar blonde lady! "Mrs. Sanders, isn't it?" Kory asks politely, visibly shaking off some of the haggardness as she approaches with a handshake.

Cam smiles up to Kory and says, "Hi." Then, as she recognizes Niki he just grins. He steps back a bit to let them meet, though for once none of the comics grabs his attention. "Yep, Niki, meet Kory."

When Kory appears, Niki has another smile waiting in the wings. It brightens, seeming genuine. "Hi, Kory." She reaches out to shake the other woman's hand. "Cam's mentioned you a bunch of times. I figured it was time to stop by and actually meet you."

"Well, good to meet, you, officially," Kory says, tilting her head thoughtfully. A light enters her eyes and she adds, "…Though I think we met for two seconds some months ago, right before I started here. Across the street at the bookstore." She gives Cam an affectionate ruffle of the hair. "Thanks for swinging by."

Cam nods quickly to Kory and says, smiling, "Sure. Ya've both been wanting to meet each other." He leans a little against the nearby counter, and looks between the two. "Um.. ok if we go where there's chairs?"

"It's possible," Niki says. Lots of people went in and out of that store. "I've been in here with my son a ton of times, too." She smiles all the more on seeing Kory's obvious affection to the boy, whose shoulder she then holds onto as some measure of comfort or stability for him, instinctive. For the answer to his question, though, she just looks at Kory.

It's a quick glance to see if the reading area is empty. Fortunately, it is. There are some gamers quietly playing Bakugan in the corner, but they're being well-mannered about it today. "C'mon, let's have a seat." To Cam, she smiles and stage whispers, "I was practicing." She glances back at Niki. "Must've been before I worked here. Cam talks about you and Micah all the time, but I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've been in here when you have."

Cam smiles back at Kory's comment, and says, "Cool. How's it goin'? My practicin' hasn't been goin' very good." He follows Kory over to the reading area, picking what looks to be the softest chair to sit in, smiling to the two again then. "Thanks."

Practicing? Niki looks between the two curiously, but says nothing right away. She seats herself at the table, leaning her elbows on its surface. "Well, he speaks highly of you," she tells Kory. "I actually wanted to talk to you" She tosses a glance Cam's way, hesitant. "You probably know I've been taking care of him for a little while, giving him a place to stay…"

"Yes, Cam keeps me posted," Kory says, smiling at Niki. Though her eyes do flit with concern to Cam, since he seems to be in some pain. "I told him before you came into the picture that he could kinda think of me as a big sister. But it's nice that he has a real mom as a mom figure. You're likely doing better for him than I could in a million years."

Alright, this topic sounds a little serious, so Cam doesn't push the whole practicing subject. He nods quickly and says, "You two, and Micah, are like the only family I got. 'Least 'til my parents come back."

Both what Kory says and what Cam says makes what Niki is trying to say a whole lot harder. Being that as it may, she ploughs on. The sunshiney smile she's had since greeting the comic store employees starts to purposefully falter. "It's just good to know that there're people out here looking out for him." A flash of the smile returns to Cam, but her focus flickers to Kory. "The truth is, I don't know how long I can be his guardian." It's said with obvious regret. She reaches out, takes the kid's hand. "So whatever happens, knowing that he has a … big sister…"

Kory's smile falters as well. "Wait, what?" She looks between Cam and Niki. "Why? What happened? I thought…" Memory sparks in her eyes again, and she glances at Cam. "Is this about what happened last time you saw me?" She looks apologetically to Niki. "Sorry. Like I said, he catches me up." She reaches to pat the other woman's shoulder. "But of course I'll be here for him, whatever he needs. Is …is there anything I can do for you?"

Cam blinks, looking up to Niki at that, and his smile is suddenly gone too. He can't object, he knew it'd come eventually, he just didn't know it'd be *now*. He nods a little bit at Kory's question, though, "Bet so." He grips Niki's hand when she takes his.

"That's all," Niki answers, squeezing Cam's hand. "Just that he has someone he trusts. You know — somewhere to fall back on, somewhere … safe," the woman says, lifting one shoulder in a half-shrug. "Especially with…" Pause pause pause. "What he can do." What we can do is what she really means.

"He has more than me," Kory assures Niki, expression worried. "He has Lachlan. And Cass. After all that happened last month, it seemed prudent to work that out, quick, fast, and in a hurry." She shrugs. "But yes. We've talked about what he can do. He knows he can talk to me about anything." She glances at Cam. "You didn't lose the cellphone, didja?" she asks, playfully.

It's a few hours after school's out, and Cam's sitting quite a bit more still than usual as he listens to Niki and Kory discuss him. He shakes his head quickly to Kory, and says, "Still in my pocket. It.. um.. got a bit wet today, but still seems to work ok."

Lee comes in the front door talking on his cellphone, briefcase bulging with papers needing to be graded before tomorrow. "I'm telling you I hate it more than anything. Yes, it's the worst, the absolute /worst/. No, no, I'm not kidding, I'm not saying this to joke around, it really is the most unbelievably horrible…exactly, the most awful, pathetic…right. You've got it exactly. Right. Okay, so I'm going to go." He's practically brimming with happiness and energy at how nasty he just was to something or other. He may have changed but schadenfreude at sticking the knife in someone or something never does. "Right, awful. The worst. Other than comic books and superheroes, which I am now surrounded by." He laughs. "Okay. See ya." He hangs up his phone and is about to ascend the stairs to the floor above when he notices the gathering in the reading area. He puts his head in as if to check to make sure Cam isn't having any fun at all, but just says, "Hello."

"Cass has enough to worry about," Niki points out, but she's quick to add, for Cam's sake, "But I'm sure she'd help you out in a heartbeat. And, it's not like I won't still be here. You just might not— " Interrupted by the appearance of Lee (or at least Lee's head), the blonde looks to the doorway and her attention … catches. Blue eyes squint. He's vaguely familiar.

"Of course you can count on me to do whatever—" Kory stops, mid-sentence, and blinks at Lee. "Lee. Hi." The astute might notice her body language has suddenly gone a bit, shall we say, tense.

Cam blinks, too, at the arrival of Lee. He gives a bit of a wave, "Hi Mr. Jones." He adds to Niki, "He's my Civics teacher, his sister owns the Lair." Definitely not as cheerful though as Lee would be used to seeing him.

Lee nods in affirmation to Cam's statement, and asks Niki: "Are you Cam's new foster placement? We have parent-teacher conferences coming up…" He misses Kory's nervousness, assuming that she assumes he's going to say something mean about her 12th level elven druid or whatever they have these days.

"Not exactly," Niki answers, letting go of Cam's hand and twisting about in her seat, one arm slung atop the back of the chair, in order to see Mr. Jones better. "I guess you could say that, temporarily."

Kory gets to her feet, with one more worried glance at Cam. "Let me give you my number, Mrs. Sanders, so we can stay in touch." She sidles past Lee, and calls, "Tito, can you get me a sticky note and a pen, please?"

Lee ahs, "Well, I haven't heard from…" Lee pauses, amends what he was about to say: "… his new caseworker yet, so if he's still placed with you by the time the conference rolls around, be sure you come in and get an update on how he's doing. That way when they do eventually find a place for him, you'll be able to let them know and he'll make a smooth transition." Oh dear, Lee is one of those /diligent/ people. "I got it." he says to Kory, producing his trusty Hipster PDA, pulling out an index card and offering it, with a red pencil that is standard issue with every teacher's certificate, to her.

Cam adds to Niki, "He was the one I told about..um.. what happened to Jakey. He's been trying to help too." He looks back up to Lee again at the talk of parent-teacher night, but just stays quiet, glancing to Kory and Niki again.

"Right," Niki says to Cam; she remembers, and turns a smile on the civics teacher, seeming to have no issue with his diligence. "I will. That sounds great, thanks. I've been meaning to talk to you anyway."

"Oh, thanks, hon." Kory accepts the index card and pencil and hastily scribbles down her name and number as well as a bit more. She returns to where she was sitting, and tucks the pencil behind one ear, offering the card to Niki. "Here you go. Are you at least staying in the city?" She seemed to recall Cam mentioning something along the lines of Niki possibly having to leave town. Hands no longer occupied, she reaches up and twirls a lock of hair in an unconscious, nervous gesture.

Lee says, "Cam knows the way. We're coming up on finals, so I'm at the school a lot." He nods to Cam. "See you soon." To Kory, on his way out: "I'll let you get back to rotting minds." Ah, playful. He still doesn't notice the nervousness.

Cam gives a little wave to Lee again and says, "Bye." He glances back to Kory and Niki again, sitting back a bit again now that his teacher's not in view.

"Thanks," Niki finds herself saying, this time to Kory as she takes the card. Pushing back the chair, she stands up and tucks the card into the back pocket of her jeans. "As far as I know," she says, honest enough — she doesn't know, in the grand scheme, but she's definitely going to try. "I'm not planning on going anywhere. It's Cam who I'm worried about." Where he'll wind up in his next placement.

"I'm a single girl in an apartment by myself, so I'm not sure they'd consider me good placement, but the offer's open. I've got a daybed in my spare room." Kory doesn't seem entirely certain what Niki needs, but her earnest concern is sincere enough. "You get yourself all bumped and bruised again?" she asks, having noticed Cam's stiff movements.

Lee departs upstairs, pausing only to receive a text message that makes him stumble halfway up.

Cam nods a little to Kory's question and answers, not clarifying too much, "Some bullies at school. I'm ok." He bites his lip a little and looks up to Niki, and says, "No matter where I go, I'll still come visit. Micah's my best friend, bet that'll be enough excuse for any foster parent I get."

"That'd be a lot for you to take on. Just…" Lines of stress assault Niki's forehead, at odds with the small, sincere smile she gives Kory. "You seem like a good person," she says. "I guess that's all I wanted to see." Cam prompts a good-natured laugh out of her. "It better be!"

Kory has relaxed again now that Lee's gone. "I'm delighted to hear I've passed the Mom Test!" she tells Niki, grinning at Cam. "Bullies, huh? Do I need to know who these kids are and …have a word with them?" She raises an eyebrow inquiringly at him.

Cam shakes his head a bit to Kory and says, "Don't think ya could do anything. You stop him and he'll just get someone else to beat me up." He's trying to play it cool, but he's scared of those guys. He does nod quickly to Niki's assessment of Kory, though.

Talk of Cam's troubles at school brings a sort of frown to Niki's features. "…I'm going to talk to his guidance counsellor." On a lighter note, she adds, "We should probably get going, Cam. Micah's gonna be jealous that we were here." And didn't bring him back anything.

"Thanks for stopping by to meet me," Kory says quietly. "Feel free to call me and pick somewhere else so as not to make Micah jealous." She chuckles. "Please do let me know if I can help, though. Picking him up after school, anything." She bends to give Cam a kiss on the cheek. "Don't let the bullies get on your nerves. That's what makes them bullies."

Cam ohs, nodding quickly to Niki at that, "Ok." He starts to get up, though he blushes a little at the kiss to his cheek. Still, he nods a little, moving to give her a quick hug, "I know." He steps back then and says, "I'll be back this weekend like usual," he adds to Kory, grinning a bit again.

"Absolutely. It was nice meeting you." As Niki heads for the exit, she adds for Cam, "Kory's right. You're better than those guys. Just remember that."

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